Recovery after knee surgery or replacement, “Dos and Don’ts”

Are you worried about your upcoming knee surgery or replacement? Or has the surgery already occurred, and you struggle to get back into an exercise routine?  Can you continue with a regular upper body weight routine after knee surgery? Dos and Don’ts associated with knee surgery or pain.

According to HSS(Hospital for Special Surgery), getting back to an established exercise routine after surgery and physical therapy is crucial for a positive outcome. Physical therapy typically starts within hours after knee surgery, introducing movement and strengthening techniques. Patients who go into an operation robustly will likely recover more quickly from this procedure. Working with a personal trainer to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee before surgery is often recommended.

Usually, patients feel great right after surgery and perhaps into the next day, thanks to pain medication, but then the real work begins.  Physical therapist's primary focus is increasing a client's range of motion, which can be painful.  This will not happen overnight and could take up to 6 weeks.

The next step is rebuilding the strength in the knee that was lost before, during, and after the surgery, followed by reaching a patient's goal, which can range from being able to walk to competing in an athletic competition.

HSS has identified three phases of physical therapy for knee surgery.

  • Phase 1 includes Increasing a patient’s range of motion(ROM) and completing exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee.
  • Phase 2 involves being able to walk with a cane—many overdue, leading to a setback in their recovery.
  • Phase 3 can last as long as a few months, with outpatient therapy introducing more complex movements to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, increase flexibility, and bring a patient back to normality.

Patients need to realize once they are released from PT, they need to continue with their fitness journey to continue the process of recovery.  Working with a personal trainer can be very beneficial for a client's continued success in recovery. Patience and commitment are two necessary components of a successful recovery period

Exercises that assist in the recovery process

  • Leg extension – sitting on a chair with your knee bent, fully extending the leg/knee, and squeezing the quadriceps.
  • Air squats – can be completed by standing up and sitting in a chair.
  • Step-ups – performed by walking up and down a flight of stairs or stepping on and off a platform.
  • Static Stretching - working on stretching your hamstring.
  • Cardio – involving water workouts like swimming and water aerobics is very beneficial, as well as riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill.  Patients need to ensure they are on a stable surface, and cardio on an elliptical machine is not recommended for three months after surgery because of the stress this machine can put on the knee right after surgery.

Can you continue with a regular workout routine after knee surgery? The answer is yes, with some caveats. BeaconOrthopedics & Sports Medicine encourages the following types of activity.

Yoga is an excellent gentle exercise that consists of controlled movements, which keeps our muscles strong and flexible.

Weightlifting – is encouraged to increase bone density and prolong life; however, patients must avoid lifting weights over 40 lbs for the first six months after surgery to avoid unnecessary stress on the associated knee.

Walking is encouraged with proper mechanics.

Golf can be played, but patients should avoid shoes with spikes. The spikes in the shoes assist in the torque associated with the swing because the legs are fixed in place.  This can put stress on the knee.


Many forms of activity and exercise are encouraged after surgery; however, individuals need to use common sense and listen to their bodies.

At goalpatrol727 - Hitting Your Personal Best Life, we understand the importance of staying active and respecting your body's signals. Our team of dedicated life coaches and personal trainers can provide you with expert guidance on maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If you have any questions or need support with fitness training, we've got you covered. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at [email protected] for more information about our services.

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